ProJourn issue statement on the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the defamation case brought against The Citizen by former Ekurhuleni police chief, Robert McBride.
The Professional Journalists’ Association of South Africa has noted the court ruling earlier today upholding The Citizen’s appeal in a defamation case brought against it by Robert McBride, former Ekurhuleni Police Chief.
According to SAPA: “In the majority judgment the court held that the Reconciliation Act did not make the fact that McBride committed murder untrue. The court found that the act did not prohibit frank public discussion of his act as “murderer” and did not prevent his being described as a “criminal”.”
Per the report: “The Constitutional Court said that protected comment need not be “fair or just at all” in any sense in which these terms were commonly understood. Criticism was protected even if extreme, unjust, unbalanced, exaggerated and prejudiced so long as it expresses an honestly-held opinion, without malice, on a matter of public interest on facts that were true. The Citizen’s main appeal was upheld and the court dismissed McBride’s cross-appeal, but nevertheless found that the newspaper had defamed McBride by claiming falsely that he was not remorseful.”
ProJourn believes this is an important judgement in an era when critical comment is condemned, and robust, honest debate discouraged.
“ProJourn believes open, honest conversation and energetic debate is critical for a fledging democracy like South Africa’s, and that the right to make comments that are unfair, unpopular or even downright nasty, is just as important as the right to say things people do want to hear,” said ProJourn spokesperson Samantha Perry.